Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Half Marathon Misconceptions

"It will be fun," they said. 

"You'll be hooked," they said. 

Don't get me wrong, I absolutely loved my half marathon experience, and I'll definitely do more in the future. That said, there are a few misconceptions about running a half marathon that they (whoever they are) conveniently left out. 

#1- You will lose weight. 

Wrong! Well, kinda. 

In total, I finished the half marathon about 8lbs less than I was when I started training. However, towards the end of training you will reach levels of ravenous you didn't think possible. For me, I was never starving immediately following my Saturday long runs, but that hunger hit two days later. A day I affectionately referred to as "Bottomless Monday." I actually gained weight the last 3 weeks before my race. Small amounts, but still.

Here's the thing about training for a half marathon while trying to lose weight: there comes a point where you need to pick your priority, weight loss or endurance. Your body can't operate at a normal weight loss deficit (roughly -500 calories/day) when you're pushing yourself to run 25+ miles a week. As a machine, your body needs fuel to run. When you're running on overdrive, your body needs more fuel to run. It doesn't mean I was re-fueling with Big Macs, but I was definitely eating more calories in order to stay satisfied and to perform at my peak.

#2- You have to run, like, every day.

Wrong. From my research, most training plans require four days of running a week. Some require three, some five. I purposely chose a five day-a-week plan, knowing that it would be a good physical challenge, but that I could probably take a day off here or there if I needed to. 

In total, my training plan called for 279 miles of running. I completed 233.5 of those miles, after missing a 27-mile week while on vacation. 

Would I have been in better shape if I hadn't skipped that week? Abso-freakin-lutely. More than anything, it rattled my confidence to skip a 9-miler and progress right from 8 to 10 miles for a long run. But do I regret skipping a week while in Ireland? Nope.

#3- You will be elated afterwards. 

Well, this is a partial truth. When I FIRST finished, I just wanted to collapse on the grass for a little while. Then I was elated. Once the soreness subsided, I couldn't wait to sign up for my next half.

But then later in the week, I started feeling weirdly sad. Moody. Withdrawn. Kinda cranky about nothing in particular. I'm not a very moody person, so I had no idea why I was feeling down. 

I did some googling, and it turns out that it's actually pretty normal to feel sad/mildly depressed following the completion of a big race. Which, when you think about it, it makes sense. Even though my actual training only lasted 12 weeks, this was a goal I'd been thinking about and working towards for many months. Before my plan started, I was training for my training. I sacrificed nights out with friends, plenty of unhealthy meals, and lots of sleeping in, in order to train for the race. And now, it's over. 

"They" say the best remedy is to sign up for something new and plan your next big challenge. I've got a 10K at the end of September, a 5K in November, and am planning to do at least 2 half marathons in 2014. Should be enough to keep me busy :)

#4- All half marathoners are Olympic Gods. 

Like many new-ish runners, I struggle with labeling myself a runner. To be completely honest, I expected to stick out among the runners. I thought that everyone would look like my brother. I expected to be one of the biggest people running, and that others would gawk at me like "who's this chick who thinks she can hang with us?"

I couldn't have been more off-base. There were people of all sizes, shapes, and abilities running. There were kids who looked like there were in middle school, and adults solidly in the "senior citizen" bracket. There were runners bigger than me at my heaviest, and runners with arm muscles that would make Jillian Michaels jealous. There were walkers. Veterans slower than me. Rookies much faster than me (the winning female had never run a half before). A woman in a wheelchair. A man wearing Dockers shorts and white Reeboks. And also, yes, Olympic God-esque runners. 

It just goes to show that you can't judge fitness level based on looks alone. Definitely a lesson worth learning.   

#5- You will want to run a marathon next!


Any other half marathon misconceptions you'd like to dispel? 


  1. I've been throwing around the idea of running a half, but with my Spartan Race in November, I think I'm going to hold off until the Spring. Winter here is a bugger and it will make it hard to train in the winter.

    PS, you're allowed to be moody.

    PPS, have I mentioned I love the way you write? You're awesome.

  2. Lol....I was constantly hungry when I was training for a 5K. I can't imagine training for a half marathon!! :O